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gwen: an abrupt change in the political winds as foreign policy intrudes on what had been a largely domestic debate, tonight on "washington week" -- unrest abroad shifts the political agenda at home. with embassies under siege, four americans killed, and fresh anger on display throughout the muslim world. >> we will not waiver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. and make no mistake, justice will be done. gwen: the man -- the men running for president face a
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leadership test. >> it's a, a -- a terrible course to, for america to stand in apology for our values. >> as we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we're at the mercy of events instead of shaping events. >> you know, governor romney hass tendency to shoot first and aim later. as -- as president, one of the things i've learned is you can't do that. gwen: refocusing on america's role in t t world. will it change the direction of the campaign or of u.s. foreign policy? covering the story, major garrett of "national journal," doyle mcmanus of "the los angeles times," laura meckler of "the wall street journal," and david sanger of the new york "times." >> award-winning reporting and analysis, coveriri history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill".
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produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- -- >> we know why we're here. to charty greener path in the air and in our factories. to find cleaner, more efficient ways to power flight. >> and harness our technology for new energy solutions. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to build a better tomorrow. >> that's why we're here. >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875, we've been there for our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them. through the years from insurance to investment mananament, from real estate to retirement solutions, we've developed new ideas for the financllhages lleaah this rock has never stood
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still. and that's one thing that will never change. prudential. >> additional corporate funding is provided by norfolk southern and american queen steamboat company, proud to support "washington week" on pbs. addidial funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, subs teuting for gwen ifill, john harwood of cnbc and the "new york times" -- once again, live from washington. moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. this was a week of politics, uprising, action and reaction. and today sadness as bodies of four americans returned home after being killed in beng hasy
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-- benghazi, lickia. >> there has bain difficult week for the state department and for our country. we've seen the heavy assault on our post in benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. we've seen rage and violence directed at american embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with. it is hard for the american people to make sense of that because it is senseless. the people of egypt, libya, yemen, and tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. tyran gwen: but the protestsave spread as thisoop gmae shows. throughout the middle east and beyond. you caca look and see -- it's paki, in london, it's
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everywhere all over the region and beyond. what happened in benghazi was tragic, but is this something that had been building for some time, david? or was this just the spark? >> gwen, i think it was the flip side of these revolutions that we all watched with sauch maysment and such enthusiasm in some cases in january and february of last year. you know, at the time of those uprising, president obama said what was remarkable about the arab spring was that it wasn't about us, it was about them. it was about throwing avenue old dictators. well, whenever you traveled through the region there wasals -- always -- was always still a little bit of an undercurrent of about us, whether we were supporting democracy or imposing our values. this week it really became about us because these awful videos that you've seen were really what happens w wn american free speech meets
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american religious tolerance or intolerance. gwen: let's explain that. it's a trailer for a film we have heard about and relatively few people have seen which was crude and offensive and circulated widely apparently around the region. but was that really the animating thing? or was there resentment that had always been there, doyle? >> well, it's both. but in fact the e lm was getting around and was being actively prop 0 gated by two different kinds of people in egypt. it's a very strange story. one was a number of coptic christians, who have been 0 pressed -- oppressed and mistreated by some muslim militants over the last months in egypt. they've been in a sense some of the unintened victims of the egyptian revolution. well, there is kind of a lunatic fringe among coptic
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christians who spread vicious anti-muslim propaganda and that appapantly played into this. that then played back and forth on egyptian talk radio and television between egyptian militants and coptition militants who hate each other, but you had the worst possible elements. yes, dade -- david's right, it's about us but it's also about them. you have a power struggle here particularar in apology. between different islamist parties, the muslim brotherhood of mursi, the president of egypt, is the relatively moderate wing of the islamist movingment. there are also salafists who don't want a relationship with the united states. gwen: you just hit on something important which is at the beginning of the week you saw the president having to make a phonon call to netanyahu, the
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israeli prime minister, and at the end of the week having to make a phone call to mursi, another difficult relationship. theoretically, both allies. how difficult was this for the white house to juggle? >> i think it was really difficult for them because here we have a white house that really sort of tip-toed its way through the arab spring and tried to be on the side of the ghontors but not too much and sort of tried to balance that out and i think kind of felt like they had gotten through it and all of a sudden we're back there today. this is also a president, keep in mind, who went to cairo in 2009 and said he wanted a new start with the arab world and the muslim world, you know, forget the, i mean bad things have happened in the past and here we are at the dawn of a new day. here we see now anti-american protests throughout the region.
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even if they're not directly against the u.s. that's how it feels. gwen: wasn't it exactly speemples like that in cairo that brought mitt romney to his critique that the president is going around the world apologizing? >> the central thing is it's important to disaggregate what happened in egypt from what happened in cairo -- from libya. what romom was actually commenting about was egypt. he said the president through his state -- state department was giving voice to grievances he felt were jill lit -- illegitimate and had done that consistently since the arab spring. that's an important argument. there is no evidence they've actively done that since that first statement but there is still time. what strikes me about what governor romney did -- did by
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injecting himself to try to make a point, he did so in an emphatic way but didn't follow up. you pick a fighththtut don't carry on the fight, either on a substantive or consistent level. that is something that's been dogging the romney campaign throughout. >> on one level this is a very bad week for romney. his response to what happened was universally either ignored or panned. he got almost no backup from the republican establishment in his critique, saying that they were essentially apologizing for america. noke else really bought into that. it was also a difficult week for president obama because when events spiral out of your control and there is unrest and when people feel nervous thahas not good fon -- for an incumbent. gwen: except that then what we look for especially in foreign policy, which isn't very manageable, is who is the
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bebeer leader? who is more credible? mitt romney tried to make the argument that it's not president obama. what would mitt romney have done with this or any of the other sticky issues? has he laid out an approach we can look to and say this is the kind of president he would be in this situation? >> well, he has but it's been with as with much of the romney campaign at the level of generalities. so there's not a list of six things he would have done. he does have a critique of the obama foreign policy in the arab world. he says he would have been tougher on the egyptians on conditionality for american aid and there are a few specifics there but it's hard to get down to see how that would really have changed these circumstances. one of his aides, rich williamson, was saying at the end of the week quite bluntly what governor romney only said implicitly, that the obama administration's weakness was the cause of these disresult.
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ions in the arab w wld. that's a really hard case to make since these disruptions have happened under president reagan, president cloirks president bush. >> that's right. when the bombing happened in lebanon that killed over 243 marines, 1983 and certainly during george bush's time we saw a lot of attacks on embassies. when you think about what the substance of thehe romney critique, he ran into trouble on two fronts. the first was he argued that this embassy statement had been an apology and when you read the statement it readlike a lot of statements out of embassies. it was meant to calm things but it actually came out before the first protest happened, which was important and it was an effort to say we disassociate the u.s. government from this video. you have to understand -- gwen: it depth work out that way. >> it didn't sort out. but when you biss -- listen to
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governor romney, it seems to have con flailted the timing and by the time romney spoke that night or issued a statement that night it was just a few hours later that the fill -- killings happened in libya. gwen: and that quickly became the fuel for the latest stage of the presidential campaign. romney's critique of the president's foreign policy record morphed into an attack on his overall ability to lead. this was running mate ryan today in washington the >> amid all these threats and dangers what we do not see is steady, consistent american leadership. in the days ahead and in the years ahead, american foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. gwen: but romney himself may have sent his own mixed signals when he said he and the president actually agree on one key issue, where to draw the line with iran. >> prime minister netanyahu of
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israel has suggested he wants more clear red lines from the united states. what is your red line with iran? >> well, my red line is iran may not have a naushg -- nuclear weapon. >> president obama said exactly the same thing. he said it's unacceptable for iran to have a nuclear weapon so your red line is the same as his. >> and i laid out what i would do to keep them from reaching that red line. cripming sanctions need to be but the in place immediately. that combined with standing up to iran. i think ahmadinejad should have been indicted under the genocide convention. >> but your red line going forward is the same. yes and i -- and recognizing that when one says it's uns&p to the united states, that means what it says. >> tell me if i'm wrong, david. he says that the red line is the same as the president's red live. that's not what the campaign
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has been saying the >> and not even what romney said himself there in july. the president has said he would stop iran from obtbtning a weapon but the big debate is what do you do about iran obtaining the capability to build one? the at built to put together the fuel, weaponry, the expertise, deliver it on a missile? the israeli position has been you've got to stop this before they get the weapon. once they have the weapon it's too late. previously mr. romney basically adopted the israeli position and on the day that he said this to george stephanopoulos, the campaign had a number of their surrogates out describing to us why the romney -- why a romney president would stop the capability. gwen: and the campaign said it was inartfully worded? >> that george stephanopoulos had mischaracterized the position. i didn't hear a lot of
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mimiharacterization. it's a complicated business. i think governor romney may have forgotten the nuance. >> the question is what is erik's interest in a nuclear iran post-arab spring? it's an important issue. if you're going to engage in that debate, explain what u.s. policy needs to be in egypt, where there are different issues than in tunisia, than in libya or irap. -- iran. take that case to the american public. if you don'ts, you run the risk of looking at what romney did, looking crass or bluffletter. and state what you would do differently than the existing president. >> it's difficult for him politically because it does come across as flailing on a number of these issues and now you have the contrast with president obama. what's he doing? standing in the rose garden
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talking about a tragedy. he's at andrew's air force base where these bodies are coming home. he is acting as commander in chief and polling shows he has a big edge on the ability to handle foreign affairs. so he -- i think this plays into his strengths. gwen: let's break down into the policies for a minute. you're right, the polls do show that the president has an edge when it comes to foreign policy and tonight a poll says he's getting an edge when it it comes to the economy. this has never happened before. we've seen battle ground polls sthoge the president ahead five points ahead in ohio, florida, and virginia. they kind of need that. what's going on? >> the country feels better with it -- about itself according to the right track-wrong track numbers, since the end of both conventions. the second convention was the democratic convention. the bounce seems to be --
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gwen: we should point out none of this is in the wake of the foreign policy -- >> no. and on the economic issues the president is closing the gap and on the foreign policy issues he's widening it. among key demographic groups, those who earn for -- more than $ 0,000s he's competitive with romney. and among those who are single, minorities, he is expanding his lead. where romney needs to gain he is either losing or just keeping steady. >> why are those thingng happening? i think the reason is because governor romney has made a compefrling case that the economy didn't -- srnt good enough but he has to take it further and say why shoe hire him him -- him instead and he hasn't been able to, at least not with enough voters. as time goes on in the campaign, he's losing opportunities to do that, so therefore we have a situation
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where i think the reason these numbers are swinging in the way that major just described it is you have more and more voters saying you know what? maybe i prefer obama? gwen: that little slice of voters we've all been watching. but let's assume this was not a great week for romney on the foreign policy front. is that how people vote? >> they vote for a number of reasons. they vote on how they feel about the economy but also on how they feel about the competence of the president. if you woke up voters in the middle of the night and said do you think 9 red line for iran should be having a nuclear weapon or having the capability, they would say what? but where they do vote is does this guy seem to have a grip on the job? they have to absorb impressions about that any way they can and this was not a good week for romney on that front. >> really from eisenhower
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forward the republicans have usually had the monopoly on the position that they are tougher and more competent on national security. whether it's the combination of the bin laden raid or the light footprint strategy -- gwen: they certainly don't mind bringing up the binin laden rai >> but other elements too. mr. romney was going offer -- after the president this week on iran. what else do we know about the president? he's done sanctions that are tougher than happened with george bush. and he did olympic games. the covert program to undermine the centrifuges in iran that are producing this nuclear fuel. so, you know, these stories and others i think mr. romney is having a hard time break through by explaining what he would do to make a stronger america the gwen: here are the numbers which baffle me. on one hand we have people saying, the majority, saying we
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think -- they think we're heading in the wrong -- wrong direction. >> although slightly better the gwen: on the other hand, you askkhem are you optimistic about where we will be a year from now, they say yes. what is the collision of this optimism with pessimism and why does it help the president in? that's exactly the obama campaign line. that's what he's saying, i understand that things aren't where they're supposed to be. it suggests it might be in the sense that he's saying, acknowledging the problem, saying we have a long way to go but here's my plan and what i can do. in the obama campaign, people think that's what wins for them. that's what they focused on in the president's speech at the convention, here's a credible plan if you put four more years. romney's speech didn't have a lot of specifics about what he was going to do. maybe that is what voters care
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about. >> romney's advertise is during the olympics when a lot of people were tuning in was about what's wrong with america. what was on observe -- obama's? we have a choice to make, we can do better. the obama campaign was deermedly trying to be on the optimistic side when most of the people he watching the olympics were what? cheering for america. they tried to follow the psychic trend lines while the romney campaign was saying things are terrible, get rid of the people in the white house. >> and before the olympics the obama campaign spent a lot of money twabbing mitt romney's record as a businessman add -- at a time when romney didn't hit back effectively and that left an indelible impression on a lote of voters who didn't know who he was. >> you hear people saying bad week for romney. you have to think that if these
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kind of protests go on, 20 countries right now, this could switch pretty quickly. in the white house this week what were they worried did -- worried about? imagine, you know, a hostage crisis, any number of things going wrong -- gwen: and no amount of ben bernanke stimulus that could change people's understanding of w wt the president's leadership can or cannot do. nobody wants to be reminded of that. but i do want to touch base briefly on that. the stock market went through the roof. bernanke trying to stimulate the economy. can it happen in time for the election? >> well, no. it's not goingo turn around the economy in time for the election. it's going to strengthen the stock market as it it already has. but in terms of impact on jobs? no, not in the sex seven weeks or whatever we've got left.
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the question i have more is not so much will someone get hired because of this but will somebody see that, and this fits into what we were just talking about, about the obama message, that there is a way ahead. will they say ok, someone is doing something, maybe this will help. what the fed did which was particularly interesting is they didn't just say we're going to buy a certain amount of bonds, they said we're going to continue doing this every month until the job market recovers, so maybe it gives people a little more confidence in it. i tend to wonder whether people's views on the economy are a little bit baked at this point and whether good news like this or another bad jobs report are going to affect it this much. gwen: obama people are getting very excited, romney people getting depressed, it's still too soon because things especially on the foreign policy front could change. we're going to have to stop because shockingly we're out of
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time. we have to go but we have a lot left to say and you can find it all as the conference continues on line on the web cast extra. keep up with developments with me on the pbs news hour and we'll see you right here next week. for all those celebrating monday, a happy rosh hash anna. and good night. funding for "washington week" provided by -- ♪
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Washington Week
WETA September 15, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT

News/Business. (2012) New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Romney 18, Washington 9, Egypt 7, America 6, Iran 5, U.s. 4, Libya 4, Obama 4, Benghazi 3, United States 3, Us 3, Cairo 3, Mr. Romney 3, Tunisia 2, George Stephanopoulos 2, Mursi 2, Norfolk 2, Pbs 2, Gwen Ifill 2, George Bush 2
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